Event review: Psychedelic Art Workshop at Elizabeth James Gallery

By - Wednesday 13th September, 2017

A fun art workshop where kids got covered in foam and learned about psychedelia

Photo by Elizabeth James Gallery, used with permission.

One August morning fifty years after the Summer of Love, I made my way to the Elizabeth James Gallery in Upper Norwood. The psychedelic art workshop was due to begin at 11:00 am; I got there early as I usually do.

The gallery has been updated with a new exhibition for Croydon’s Summer of Love, which has been commemorating the golden anniversary of the hippie summer of 1967. I examined the new artworks, big and small, before taking my seat. A majority of the members hadn’t arrived yet so I offered to help Allison Ferguson, the workshop facilitator, with setting up. She asked me to fill every tray on the table with shaving foam, five in total, as we would need them later. I asked for some hints about what we were doing to get some insight but all I was told was “it will get messy!”.

Photo by Elizabeth James Gallery, used with permission.

The gallery suddenly became much louder as the participants appeared: unfortunately there weren’t many people my age as most were younger children (the event was listed as suitable from people from six to sixteen which is fairly broad). We had all arrived in old clothes, as requested; I wasn’t sure I would need them but in the end I was overjoyed that these weren’t my favourite clothes. Even after just the first activity, my t-shirt was ooozing with foam, which I didn’t really mind.

Putting on black acrylic paint was like stroking a cat

We were working on something called marbling which involved using the shaving foam and watercolour ink to create a piece of art with the swirls and colours of psychedelia. It was quite a fun process. When we had gone through with the rest of the instructions, we put our pieces on the side to dry. I was very pleased with my final piece of artwork.

Next we moved on to the bigger piece of work we needed to do. It was to create a hand or tree (artist’s choice) and cover it in psychedelic patterns and drawings. I chose the biggest opinion of the two, a large tree. Colouring the trees really made me work up a sweat, so much so that I needed Allison’s help to finish the job. We then coated the tree with black acrylic paint which was very smooth and therapeutic. It was described as being like stroking a cat. There was so much to do that I couldn’t even finish it all at the workshop!

This really was a very good event. The tutors were friendly, Elizabeth James included, the activities were well thought out and structured and for £11 it was definitely very good value. I felt that we’d learned a lot about a really interesting and unusual period of art history.

Photo by Elizabeth James Gallery, used with permission.

Rufus Jones

Rufus Jones

Rufus is in year 10 at Archbishop Tenison's School, Croydon. He has a passion for art and design and a keen interest in history and writing, taking after his father. In his spare time he enjoys gaming.

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